Running From Fencott

We are poor people
have no craft or skill
are not guildspeople

Our material is not stone or fine timber
not iron for tools
nor rare metals for delicate fineries

We are not wrights
nor aspire to be such

We work hard
the menial land
do what is necessary with graft and little skill
do many necessary ordinary things well
There are many simple things to learn
Cutting soil
weaving branches
sculpting hay
animating plants
draughting hedges
multiplying animals

When our master was required to collect taxes
from each of us
old enough to pay
we took
were given
the name of the place where we lived
a small farming hamlet
a cottagium
too small to be a manor
Were given the name Fencott
there was nothing else to distinguish us
We were not Smiths Bakers Shepherds Millers.
We are now Fencotts

We work the land of Fencott
the cottage in the fens
for others

Bewitched Otmoor
the forgotten land
Sleeping Otmoor
cast under a spell of ancient magic
This curious area
of almost wild fen-like desolation

A marshland of
false tempers
stuffy vapours
misleading voices
feckless imaginings
uncertain underfoot
reckless venturesome Otmoor
Hidden in the heart of England
right close to Oxford
Fen-like but not the anglian fen of the east

Fencott lies low in Otmoor


Some dark winter nights
there were celebrations
flickering fire
strong drink dancing

There were often nights like these
more than people would realise
The family of all ages

No place for shyness
or contemplation
only the communal
merriment let loose
within the bonds of family and friends

There were nights like these
in my childhood
the name had got to me
of no known origin

The family of all ages
television radio record player
or other mechanical contrivance

The sound of voices
singing laughing
raucous joke cackles
stories almost
stores of the real
that are not quite jokes
elabourations of events that once almost happened
stories not surprises
Some are more serious than others
Some genuine myth and legend handed down
over and over again

Jack 'O Kent playing quoits with the devil
tricks and
clever ruses
that the devil was never a match for

fantastical events
fantastically told that they might be true

There were two shopkeepers that never got on
and they were always playing jokes on each other
Winding each other up
Anonymous requests

"Is that the taxidermist?"
"Do you stuff parrots?"
"Well thisun's dead Stuff it up your arse"

"Is that the fishmonger?"
"Half hundredweight of filleted tadpoles please"


Somehow this working would not stay so
Something was made
to change
living with themselves

Working up a thirst
Building a need
let all loose
let is all go
to claim that right
to loose
no choice
but the bloodiness of the rebellion

Stumbling through reed beds
head high
knee deep mud
getting out anywhere
reeds part as bodies pass
night tells only the sound of passing
The hunt to choose
drove us to flee

Running from Fencott
No appetite for the celebration
Fencotts lie low in Otmoor
Sinews between us all


Street door hedge
over roof tops over
flaking and aging tables
white juke pin chairs checquered
even as a boy
across roof tops
the space he found
wanted that the spot that he found
look less like real walls

Material of ambiguous clarity
Love workcraft of expression

Parts patterns repetitions
gently voice cochophony of
noises of the animal
voices dancing in torrents
Voicing infectious booze improvise

Now listen here and listen good!
This is no influence
this is my blood
this might be my blood

But something was to stop this working
roving mind
denials rebound
And other parts of that culture
the righteousness
the propaganda cult
the poetry of that
irritates me

The place does not choke me
The city is a nuisance
an irrelevance
to me

We escape to the coast
Then futher north
further away
Loosing all contact
Leaving no trace

Working with abstractions of machines
inventing constructing learning
inside formal systems
delighting in this kind of creativity
I am happier

For years I want no interruption to this new starting again
I come to feel that my years as a sound poet and my work with Bob
were an apprenticeship
Sean said as much at the time
I wish I had seen it like that then

Another time Sean said
"You never knew what you were doing"
He was right
But I didn't want to know
I wanted
still want
intuitive non-rational spontaneous theory-less poetry
Something like that

Someday the apprentice
has to break loose
will break loose
without perhaps understanding why
Step on further
something of themselves
might take part again
Wanting to write again
something else of myself
I have now at least a double vision
I cannot see clearly
from where I once stood
Not a return
but I am here now


May 1991
a new atlas
a new road
speeding across a new patch of England
A sign says


Just 3 or 4 miles on the motorway
almost at the turnoff and
Anne shouts
"There is a place called Fencott"
just by this new road

It is the first time I have ever seen my name anywhere
with my immediate family

Many years ago my mother and father came across a  green grocer called Fencott
who said there werer Fencotts in Derbyshire
That sometime in the early 19th century
a Fencott had gone to live in Ross in the Wye valley
which is where we come from
Fencotts belong in Derbyshire now perhaps?
We don't know if there are Fencotts anywhere else

In a shopping precinct in Middlesbrough a man has a computer that gives
family histories surname meanings origins
twenty thousand names and more
Fencott is not one of them

We pull up at a T-junction
a little sign points right to Fencott
We follow the road
We follow the road which is called
Fencott Road
Eventually we cross a little bridge
and see a sign
 which says

I always try to

We stop and Anne takes our photograph
Robin and Clive Fencott standing by the sign that says
here is the start of Fencott
Just by the sign is a garden centre called

Fencott Bridge Nurseries

written in big flowery script
We buy some little plants for our garden at home
As we pay I mention that my name is Fencott
The woman has never heard of anyone called Fencott living in the area


Coming home
I feel I am
a voyage of centuries
Share nothing perhaps
this Fencott and I
may not ever have belonged
The names so easily coincident

Why leave?
No rebellion
Perhaps they just got fed up
and left
Were not pushed
or angry

Coming back
to somewhere I've never been
Marsh mur fen prarie
just as in the Camargue
I recognise the flatness
have always been fascinated
by flat lands

Heriditary memory
scattered dwellings
expanses of reed and rivulet
Dwelling upon
settled inside
this Fencott